A 23-year-old woman has been found guilty of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to an American tourist near Tralee in August 2013.
Veterinary assistant Áine Stack, of Bedford, Listowel, had pleaded not guilty to an initial charge of dangerous driving causing the death of John Lenahan, a 67-year-old man from Colorado on August 30th, 2013, at Clogherbrien, a crossroads near Tralee.
Mr Lenahan died in hospital on September 10th of that year.
The deceased was a front-seat passenger in the hired black Nissan Qashqai car driven by his son Robert and the vehicle was carrying three generations of the Lenahan family. They had arrived at Kerry airport that morning and were on their way to a seafood restaurant.
Robert Lenahan told the trial he and his father had shared an interest in photography and had been discussing the sunset ahead of them on the R558 road towards Fenit. The jury was told Ms Stack – who had been at the beach with her brothers and their friend – emerged from a lesser road into their path.
Forensics crash investigator Garda James O’Brien formed the opinion the Vauxhall, driven by Ms Stack had failed to stop on its way from the lesser road and had gone into the side of the Nissan Qashqai, driving it across the road on to a wall.
Garda O’Brien told Tralee Circuit Criminal Court there was a good view from the side road of the R558 “in both directions”.
On the second day of the trial last Friday the charge faced by Ms Stack was amended by the prosecution to that of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm.
Evidence of a surgeon read into court told how the late Mr Lenahan was admitted to intensive care and his condition had improved. However, he had died on September 10th due to sudden cardio-collapse.
It emerged that State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster in November 2014 had made a written submission to the gardaí that it could not be said "to the criminal standard of proof this collision caused the death of Mr Lenahan". The first time the defence saw the letter submitted by Dr Bolster was on the second day of the trial. The charge was therefore amended.
The court heard there were no aggravating factors, the vehicle driven by Ms Stack was in good condition and there was no alcohol involved and Ms Stack had never come to the attention of gardaí.
After just over an hour deliberating on Tuesday, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm..
Mr Lenahan, in a victim-impact statement, said the events of August 2013 had a traumatic impact on his family. Losing a husband, a father and a grandfather in such an unnecessary way was hard to fathom, he said.
“My family has done well trying to continue with their lives, but this has been difficult,” he said.
His wife Amy still panicked in a car, and both she and his mother still suffered physically and would for the rest of their lives.
“However, as a family, we believe Ms Stack’s intentions that day were not to kill my dad,” he said.
Her life should not be ruined and she should not serve time in prison.
“We believe, as a family, in forgiveness, my dad would as well,” he said.
Afterwards Mr Lenahan approached Ms Stack to speak to her and comfort her.
Judge Thomas E O’Donnell adjourned finalising the case to Thursday.